Celebrating 30 years of the FMLA — Is federal paid leave next?


President pushes for federal paid leave law

In honor of the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), President Biden indicated that he is still pushing for a federal paid leave law (FMLA is unpaid leave). He restated this sentiment in his State of the Union Address on February 7.

FMLA history

As part of the events surrounding the anniversary, President Clinton, who signed the FMLA into law on February 5, 1993, was invited to the White House. President Clinton indicated that the FMLA, which was his first piece of legislation after taking office, is the one law that people thank him for the most.

Getting the FMLA through the legislative process was no easy feat, however. It took about nine years to become law, as Congress failed to pass it many times.

Future of the FMLA

Currently, several bills in Congress, if passed, would expand on the current FMLA in ways such as:

  • Having more employers subject to the law,
  • Making more employees eligible to take leave, and
  • Expanding the definition of family members.

Other bills making their way through Congress would, if passed, entitle employees to paid leave.

Paid parental leave for federal employees

Currently, federal government employees get up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave in a 12-month period. Federal employees may not use any paid parental leave unless they agree in writing, before the leave begins, to subsequently work for the applicable employing government agency for at least 12 weeks.

President Biden has asked federal government agencies to allow employees to take leave even if it's during the first year of work.

Under the FMLA, however, employees are eligible for leave only if they have worked at least 12 months for a covered employer, and have worked at least 1,250 hours prior to the leave.

Is federal paid leave for all a possibility?

In 2021, the President tried to include paid leave for other employees in a budget bill, but it was eventually removed.

The chance of federal paid leave becoming law in the near future is pretty slim at this point. That doesn't mean, however, that employers shouldn't take the FMLA seriously.

In fact, in fiscal year 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division investigated 780 FMLA complaints and recovered more than $870,000 in back wages for violations.

Proponents of a federal paid leave law believe that it would be good for employers as well as employees. Many states have paid leave laws, and employers must work hard to comply with the patchwork of laws. Opponents, on the other hand, prefer to let employers decide which benefits to provide employees based on their employees' specific needs.

Key to Remember: Paid leave remains a hot topic for legislators as well as employees. Currently, however, no federal paid leave laws are positioned to become law any time soon.

This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. The content of these news items, in whole or in part, MAY NOT be copied into any other uses without consulting the originator of the content.


The J. J. Keller LEAVE MANAGER service is your business resource for tracking employee leave and ensuring compliance with the latest Federal and State FMLA and leave requirements.